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"was observed to be a mark of distinction affected by his "family. He had a handsome face, but often full of pim"pies. His eyes, which were large, had the peculiar "faculty of seeing best at night-time. He walked with his "neck stiff and unmoved, commonly with a frowning coun"tenance, being, for the most part, silent: when he spoke "to those about him, it was very slowly, and, generally, "accompanied with an effeminate motion of his fingers."
That Tiberius must have possessed a wonderful knowledge of character, and a perfect insight into human nature, to a degree which made him scarce short of a prophet, the following anecdotes, from Tacitus, will exemplify: his reproach to Macro, " that he turned from the setting to the rising sun," he could not foresee that this creature—his tool—would suffocate him whilst dying. When Caligula spoke of Sylla with contempt—" You will have the vices of that great man without one of his virtues." While embracing the youngest of his grandsons, he observed the stern countenance of Caligula, and, in words which were prophetic, calmly told him— "You will kill this boy, and fall yourself by another hand." If Caligula was spared, Tiberius gave it as his reason—" I "suffer that son of Germanicus to live, that he may be, in "time, a public calamity, and the fated author of his own "destruction. In him I nourish a serpent for the people of "Rome, and another Phaeton for the world at large."
A passage in one of his letters (still quoting Tacitus) is too remarkable to be omitted :—" What to write, conscript "Fathers! or what to refrain from writing, is a matter of "such perplexity, that, if I know how to decide, may the "just gods of vengeance doom me to die in pangs worse "than those under which I linger every day." The confession seems almost to have broken out unawares. I add the fine observations of Tacitus:
"We have here the features of the inward man: his "crimes retaliated on him with the keenest retribution. By "blows and stripes the flesh is made to quiver, and, in like "manner, cruelty and inordinate passions, malice and evil "deeds, become internal executioners, and, with unceasing "torture, lacerate the heart. Neither the imperial dignity, "nor the gloom of solitude, nor the rocks of Caprese, could "shield Tiberius—-from himself. He lived on the rack of "guilt, and his wounded spirit groaned in agony.''
. . . . There is a hell
Upon itself by the quick spirit wrought:
The Mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven!
The blow to him was mercy given:
I give, from Tacitus, the death of Tiberius, entire: for, surely, the page of History opens on no scene more awakening, or where the characters appear more to live on the eye, acting their various parts of servility, fear, hope, and dissimulation :—
"Tiberius now drew near his end: his strength declined, "his spirits sank, and everything failed, except his dissimu"lation. The same austerity still remained, the same rigour "and energy of mind. He talked in a decisive tone: he "looked with eagerness; aud, even, at times, affected an air "of gaiety. Dissembling till the last, he hoped, by false ap"pearances, to hide the decay of nature. Weary, restless, "and impatient, he could not stay long in one place. After "various changes, he stopped at a villa, once the property of "Lucullus, near the promontory of Misenum. It was here "first known that his dissolution was approaching fast. "The discovery was made in the following manner. A phy"sician, named Charicles, highly eminent in his profession, "attended the train of Tiberius, not employed to prescribe, "but occasionally assisting with friendly advice. Pretend"ing to have avocations that required elsewhere his atten"dance, he approached the Emperor to take his leave, and "respectfully laying hold of his hand, contrived, in the act "of saluting it, to feel his pulse. The artifice did not escape
"the notice of Tiberius. It probably gave him offence, but,
"for that reason, he smothered his resentment. With an air
"of cheerfulness, he ordered the banquet to be served, and,
"seemingly with intent to honour his departing friend, con
"tinued at table beyond his usual time. Charicles was not
"to be deceived. He saw a rapid decline; and assured
"Macro that two days, at most, would close the scene. For
"that event, measures were immediately taken: councils
"were held in private, and despatches were sent to the army.
"On the seventeenth, before the calends of April, A.d. 37,
"Tiberius had a fainting-fit: he lay for some time in a state
"of languor, speechless, without motion, and was thought to
"be dead. A band of courtiers surrounded Caligula, eager
"to pay their court, and all congratulating the prince on his
"accession to the imperial dignity. Caligula was actually
"going forth to be proclaimed emperor, when word was
"brought, that Tiberius was come to himself, and had called
"for a cordial to revive his fainting spirits. The whole
"party was struck with terror—tlie crowd dispersed; some
"with dejected looks, others with a cheerful mien, as if tei
"conscious of what had happened. Caligula stood at gaze
"astonished, and almost out of his senses. But one moment
"before, he had one foot on the throne, and was now cast
"from the summit of his ambition. He remained fixed
"in despair, as if awaiting the stroke of death. Macro
"alone was undismayed. With firmness and presence of
"mind, he cleared the Emperor's room, and gave orders that
"the remains of life should be smothered under a load of « clothes." Such was the end of Tiberius, in the seventyeighth year of his age
A picture of human nature in its every phrase of meanness, prostration, duplicity, and cruelty. When Tiberius watched from his rock the departure of his favourite Macro to crush Sejanus, he could not foresee he was nourishing the serpent who would, eventually, fasten on himself; and Macro, eager, then, to serve his master and his own ambition, little dreamed that he should become the executioner of the Emperor;—what puppets are human beings under the influences of destiny, or, rather, of their own overmastering passions I
But Tacitus sums up—« His manners, like his fortune, "had their revolutions, and their distinctive periods; "amiable, while a private man; and, in the highest em"ployments under Augustus, esteemed and honoured. He "played an artificial character during the lives of Drusus "and Germanicus, concealing his vices, and assuming the "exteriors of virtue. While his mother Livia lived, good "and evil were blended. Detested for his cruelty, he had "the art, while he loved or feared Sejanus, to throw a veil "over his most depraved appetites. All restraint being, at "length, removed, he broke out without fear or shame; "and, during the remainder of his life, hurried away by "his own unbridled passions, he made his reign one scene "of lust, and cruelty, and horror.''